Nov. 17, 2008
Big Ten Squads Begin 2008-09 Season with Perfect Mark: Minnesota opened the 2008-09 season with perfect 3-0 record last week, while Illinois and Michigan began the non-conference slate with two victories on their respective home courts. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin also opened the campaign with home victories. The Wolverines advanced to the semifinals of the 2008 2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches Vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden. Michigan will face UCLA on Thursday in New York. The Gophers captured the NABC Classic title with wins over Concordia-St. Paul, Bowling Green and Georgia State last weekend to earn their first tournament crown since the 1981 non-conference season. Ohio State will open its non-conference slate this week as it hosts Delaware State on Thursday.
Big Ten Tied for National Lead with 14-0 Record: Through the opening week of the 2008-09 campaign, the Big Ten is one of three conferences yet to suffer a loss. The Big Ten joins the ACC (16-0) and Big 12 (15-0) with unblemished records. Ten of the 11 teams competing last week recorded 14 victories on their home courts to give the Big Ten a 14-0 opening week record. The conference opened the 2007-08 season with a 6-0 record.
Three’s a Charm: Sporting a 3-0 record, Minnesota is only one of four teams nationally to have won three games this year. Duke, Clemson and Iowa State join the Golden Gophers with a trio of wins. Minnesota began the 2007-08 season 3-0 before losing its first contest. Prior to last year, the Golden Gophers’ last 3-0 start was the 2000-03 campaign, when they went 4-0 before dropping their first contest. Twenty-eight teams, including Illinois and Michigan, have won two games thus far.
Explosive Offense: Michigan State scored 100 points in a win over Idaho Sunday afternoon to tally the most points scored by a Big Ten squad last week. The Spartans are one of 18 teams nationally to be averaging 100 or more points per game. Of those teams, MSU ranks ninth in margin of victory (+38.0). The Big Ten averaged a margin of victory of 20.6 points over its opponents in the opening week. In addition to the century mark set by Michigan State, three other teams recorded 80 or more points in games last week. Indiana scored 83 en route to a win over Northwestern State while Purdue tallied 82 in a victory over Detroit Mercy. Northwestern scored 81 to defeat Central Arkansas. The win was the largest margin of victory for NU since a 94-43 triumph over the University of Chicago in the first game of the 1993-94 campaign. The 42-point decision matches a 50-year-old program record for the largest margin of victory ever against a Division I opponent. The Wildcats defeated Western Michigan 102-60 in the 1958-59 season opener.
Stingy Defense: In the slate of 14 games to open the Big Ten non-conference campaign, no opponent scored more than 65 points. Northwestern State posted the most, scoring 65 in a loss to Indiana (83-65). The conference averaged 53.9 points allowed per game to lead the nation. Big 12 teams allowed only 54.3 points to rank second and the Pac-10 gave up 57.1 in its opening week. Northwestern allowed the fewest points, holding Central Arkansas to 39 points.
Michigan State Wins 22 Straight at Home: The Michigan State Spartans earned their 22nd straight home victory, defeating Idaho 100-62. The Spartans were the only Big Ten squad to go undefeated at home last year. MSU's 22-game streak is currently tied for fifth in the country (BYU 47, Notre Dame 38, Tennessee 33, Kansas 25, Georgetown 22) The Spartans' last loss at home was on Feb. 3, 2007 to No. 4 Ohio State.
Double-Double Performances: Five Big Ten players tallied double-doubles in the first week of action. In his first game of the 2008-09 season, Penn State’s Jamelle Cornley notched 14 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth career double-double. Michigan’s DeShawn Sims claimed his second double-double as a Wolverine with a 10-point and 12-rebound performance against Michigan Tech. Illinois’ Mike Davis (20 points, 14 rebounds vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Indiana’s Tom Pritchard (13 points, 10 rebounds vs. Northwestern State) and Michigan’s Manny Harris (26 points, 10 rebounds vs. Northeastern) each collected his first career double-double.
We All Scream Crean: The Indiana Hoosiers opened the 109th season of men’s basketball and the first season with Tom Crean at the helm with a 83-65 win against Northwestern State. The win marked Crean’s first victory as head coach of the Hoosiers and his eighth consecutive win in opening games to begin the season (won his last seven season openers at Marquette). With the win, Crean becomes the ninth straight head coach in IU history to win his first game as head coach of the Hoosiers.
Sensational Sophomores: Last year’s class of freshmen picked up right where they left off as the group of current sophomores had big games last week. Michigan’s Manny Harris averaged 28 points on the week, including a 30-point effort against Michigan Tech in the Wolverines’ opener. Michigan State’s Chris Allen and Penn State’s Talor Battle each averaged 21 points for the week. Illinois’ Mike Davis recorded his first career double-double with 20 points and 14 rebounds versus Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Minnesota’s Al Nolen dished out 21 assists in three games to average 7.0 per outing and on the defensive end, picked off 12 steals, averaging 4.0 per game. Spartan Kalin Lucas dished out nine helpers in MSU’s win over Idaho.
Playing the Best: Big Ten teams have once again scheduled some of the nation’s toughest teams for non-conference play, including 13 teams listed in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today preseason polls. Each team will face at least two ranked teams this season, with several having the potential to meet ranked foes in non-conference tournaments. Michigan will meet the first of the ranked opponents as it challenges No. 4/4 UCLA in the semifinals of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The Wolverines will also square off against No. 8/5 Duke in early December and will meet No. 2/2 Connecticut late in the season for a non-conference tilt. Michigan State is challenged early in the non-conference season, facing No. 1/1 North Carolina, No. 7/8 Texas and could potentially meet No. 10/11 Gonzaga in the Old Spice Classic. Other Big Ten programs will take on No. 3/3 Louisville (Minnesota), No. 8/5 Duke (Michigan and Purdue), No. 9/9 Notre Dame (Indiana and Ohio State), No. 10/11 Gonzaga (Indiana), No. 16/17 Marquette (Wisconsin), No. 17/16 Miami (Ohio State), No. 20/20 Davidson (Purdue) and No. 21/24 Wake Forest (Indiana). There is a potential that several Big Ten squads could meet ranked teams in tournament play, including No. 7/8 Texas (Indiana) and No. 23/25 Villanova (Penn State).
Maximum Exposure: The Big Ten Conference is currently enjoying its greatest national television exposure ever. For the second consecutive year, every men’s basketball conference regular-season and tournament game will be nationally televised. The Big Ten Conference’s media agreements result in over 100 games appearing nationally on CBS Sports, ESPN, ESPN2 or the Big Ten Network. The conference slate tips off on Tuesday, December 30, with Purdue hosting Illinois. The tilt will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. EST.
Tapping the Fountain of Youth: Four of the six outstanding freshman players from a year ago return for their sophomore campaign in 2008-09, indicating a strong youth presence once again for the Big Ten. The quartet was among the top five in several statistical categories in 2007-08. The conference returns 46 sophomores and welcomes 55 newcomers. Of the 11 Big Ten rosters, there are only 66 juniors and seniors. The newcomers and second-year players account for nearly 60 percent of the conference’s student-athletes for the 2008-09 season.
10th Annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge: The 2008-09 season will celebrate the 10th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The matchups for the challenge have been determined with the event featuring top collegiate basketball programs playing for conference supremacy and the Commissioner’s Cup on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. For the fourth straight season, the event will feature 11 games. ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast nine games and ESPNU will air the remaining two. This year’s challenge will be played on Dec. 1-3 and will be highlighted by Michigan State hosting North Carolina at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., which is expected to house over 70,000 fans for that contest. Other games include Wisconsin at Virginia Tech, Ohio State at Miami, Iowa at Boston College, Clemson at Illinois, Duke at Purdue, Virginia at Minnesota, Indiana at Wake Forest, Penn State at Georgia Tech, Michigan at Maryland and Florida State at Northwestern.